PLANET REESE by Cordelia Strube (Dundurn), 352 pages, $21.99 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Sometimes sensitivity can make you crazy. So it goes with Reese Larkin, the central character in Planet Reese.
He's so aware of how we're trashing the earth, how capitalism enslaves us and why war completely sucks that he can't help scaring the shit out of his kids.
That's what his wife thinks anyway. She's so convinced of it that she dumps him, forcing him to move into a basement apartment below Katrina, a stripper with a heart of gold.
Not a bad premise for what turns out to be a very compelling novel by Cordelia Strube.
What's intriguing about the set-up is the way Strube takes such pleasure in subverting stereotypes. Often, Reese comes across like a woman trying to get her husband to start thinking about the environment instead of his next business deal. At other times it's hard to know whether we're supposed to sympathize or be appalled by the guy's attitudes.
Embedded here is deep satire, but this is not a simple send-up of political correctness. Reese co-manages a telemarketing team that raises money for various charities, spinning the pitch in stunning ways depending on the organization's politics. Some hilarious fantasy sequences occur during the large chunk of the book tracking Reese as he shops for a new bed.
And there's lots of tension. Our hero breaks into his old house to steal the hamster or get a glimpse of his children, and as he gets progressively flipped out, it looks like he'll never get quality time with his kids again. That depends on whether the shrink Reese can't reach believes wife Roberta's not-so-veiled allegations that he's been diddling his daughter. And bar owner Bob, who's also going through an icky separation, has a gun....
This is a very funny book, but it has an underlying sadness that ultimately eclipses its absurdities. Very smart.